Saturday, June 22, 2013

Encounter with Richard Warren and Hester Cooke at the Plimouth Plantation

Our family history roadtrip took us to Plymouth, Massachusetts where we visited Plimouth Plantation, which contains a close to authentic replica of the town of Plymouth circa 1627. (See As you wander around the village you meet actors portraying particular individuals who were residents that year. Of the handful of actors we saw, two were portraying our ancestors: my ninth great grandparents, Richard Warren, and Hester Cooke, born Hester Mahieu, who was the wife of Francis Cooke. I was hoping something like this would happen, but did not expect this.

Hester Mahieu Cooke
as portrayed by an actress
at Plimouth Plantation 19 June 2013
(photographed by S. Hart)

Hester informed me that she was a "Walloon", as her family came from the French part of Belgium, Wallony. This is all very interesting, considering that when I was a university student I went to Belgium as part of an international youth program, which was specifically about discovering Wallony. I had no idea at the time that this land was part of my own heritage. Strange how these things happen in the course of a life. Of course, the question of Hester's origins is all fuel for further study.

Richard Warren
as portrayed by an actor at Plimouth Plantation 19 Jun 2013
(photographed by S. Hart)
I met Richard Warren at his house with his daughter Elizabeth. When I introduced myself, and told him that he was my many times great grandfather through his daughter Sarah, who was going to marry Francis Cooke's son John, he was not very happy to hear that his family was going to be connected to the Cookes. He also stated that he did not believe in speculating about the future. He informed me that he was not part of the religious group which had come to Plymouth, as was Cooke, but was from "London" and was "Church of England". He was a bit crotchety altogether, as great grandfathers can be. He was not impressed with the fact that the colonists lacked so much to help them with their daily lives, such as horses, which he stated had been promised to them originally. I look forward to learning more about Richard, and about the Plymouth colony in general. He was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact, which had enshrined separation of Church and State long before the U.S. Constitution.

Later in the day, I visited the Pilgrim Hall Museum, which is the oldest continually operating museum in the United States. (See  The one item they had from either the Cookes or the Warrens, was Richard Warren's "napkin", which had been handed down through the family. Apparently they did not use cutlery as such, but would eat with their hands, which they would wipe on cloths draped over their shoulders. I could barely make out a design showing what seemed to be embossed angels.

While shopping in the gift shop of the Museum, I started chatting with one of the employees, who was also descended from Richard Warren and Francis Cooke, and was therefore my actual cousin. She directed me to volume twelve of the series, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, which listed the descendants of Francis Cooke. We were able to follow all the lines of descent, of which I was previously aware, from Cooke all the way to my Revolutionary War ancestor, Jeremiah Hart. There it all was in print in one book. She further informed me that because Jeremiah had a number beside his name, and not just a Roman numeral, that his descendants, for at least another generation, would likely appear in the next edition of the book. Just to clarify, the lineage down to us goes something like this: Francis Cooke, John Cooke (who married Richard Warren's daughter Sarah), Mary Cooke, John Taber, Mary Taber, Jeremiah Hart, Stephen Hart, John Hart, Melvin Hart, George Hart, Harold Hart, and Harold's children and grandchildren. It is interesting to note that this list involves only three surnames: Cooke, Taber and Hart--(four if you include Warren). It is also striking to me that there was a long tradition in this family of carving a life out of the wilderness, up to and including Melvin and George Hart homesteading in Alberta in the early twentieth century.

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